Time to Drop Sanctions Against Cuba

The federal government announced recently that it was creating a new law enforcement task force that will be charged with cracking down on violators of U.S. trade and travel sanctions against the island nation of Cuba. As part of the task force, personnel from the Departments of Commerce, Homeland Security, and the Treasury, as well as agents from the FBI, will focus on individuals and businesses engaged in commercial activity, travel, and the transfer of currency to Cuba.

The sanctions, which have been in effect for more than forty years, and which will remain in place until free and fair elections are held, are supposed to isolate the Castro dictatorship politically, economically, and socially. The reality, though, is that they do little more than hurt the Cuban people while the Castro brothers maintain their firm grip on power.

Historically, economic sanctions have done little to change the behavioral patterns of bad governments and ruthless dictators. Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times wrote in 2003 that "The United States imposed 85 new unilateral economic sanctions on foreign nations from 1996 to 2001. But sanctions, which cost U.S. companies up to $19 billion in 1995 alone, aren't a policy; they're a feel-good substitute for one."

On most issues facing America today, I find myself on the opposite end of the political spectrum from Mr. Kristof. However, the question of economic sanctions provides a rare opportunity for us to agree on a policy matter. There have been very few instances where economic sanctions have hurt those in power. They almost always fail to achieve the policy aims of the nation imposing them and usually end up hurting the very people they are meant to help.

For economic sanctions to work against a particular state there has to be global consensus for their implementation. Sanctions imposed and enforced by one nation alone rarely have the desired effect because the sanctioned nation simply finds other trading partners to conduct economic activity. Too often, business opportunities and investment programs prevent countries from signing on to a sanctions regime, even though they may find the target country's behavior objectionable.

Take for instance the recent discussions in the United Nations Security Council over Iran's uranium enrichment activities. Despite a clear threat to regional peace and stability should Iran acquire nuclear weapons, Russia, France and China have thus far refused to go along with sanctions that would limit Iran's access to nuclear technology. All three nations have business interests in Iran and all three stand to lose money if sanctions are imposed. Even if the United States unilaterally imposed sanctions to supplement restrictions already in place, the effect on Iran's radical regime would be negligible at best.

In the case of Cuba, sanctions currently in place against the Castro regime are largely American, and as such are summarily ignored by most other nations. While Castro has certainly been deprived of American dollars, there has been no shortage of willing trade partners or arms suppliers for the communist dictatorship. Cuba has indeed experienced significant economic troubles since the collapse of the Soviet Union, but those fiscal woes are the result of losing the island nation's long-time economic and political sponsor and not the result of American economic sanctions.

Truth be told, sanctions imposed by the United States against Cuba hurt American businesses, Cuban-Americans with relatives living under the Castro dictatorship, and ordinary Cuban citizens. Fidel and Raul Castro have used U.S. economic sanctions as a scapegoat for the island's depressed economic state without consequence.

The United States should aggressively promote democratic values and the promise of a better life without the Castros, especially through the large Cuban population in southern Florida. The end of communist rule in Cuba is a matter of "when" and not "if." Eventually the regime will fall, much like the former Soviet Union did. In the meantime, other methods for promoting regime change should be explored and pursued, and economic sanctions that have done more to hurt the Cuban people than the Castro government over the past four decades should be lifted.

Source: www.isnare.com